By STEPHEN WHYNO
AP Hockey Writer
DENVER (AP) — “Mr. Game 7” is back in the Stanley Cup Final, but in a much different role than before.
Three-time champion and 2014 playoff MVP Justin Williams is joining NHL Network as a guest analyst for Games 3 and 4 between the Colorado Avalanche and Tampa Bay Lightning.
“It’s easy to talk hockey — it’s all I know,” Williams told The Associated Press by phone Sunday. “I know hockey. I’ve been through a lot of experiences. You feel you can give people the best insight you can as to what’s going on in the locker room and what players are thinking and kind of hopefully what needs to be done.”
Williams, who won the Cup with Carolina in 2006 and Los Angeles in 2012 and ’14, is best known for his Game 7 heroics. He recorded an NHL-record 15 points, and his team went 8-1 in those games.
He enters this series for Game 3 on Monday in Tampa with the dominant Avalanche up 2-0 on the two-time defending champion Lightning, who will need to replicate their comeback in the Eastern Conference final to force even a Game 6.
“One team’s been really good, and the other team has yet to show what they can do,” Williams said. “You fully expect a bounce-back performance and more of a game than what we saw in Game 2.”
Talking hockey is no problem for the 40-year-old who’s still connected to the game as a coach for his kids and adviser for the Carolina Hurricanes. Happy with his decision to hang up his skates in 2020, Williams’ new TV teammates are fellow retired players Mike Johnson and Mike Rupp and host Jamison Coyle, who have a combined 2,786 games of NHL experience and four Cup rings among them.
“With those guys, it’ll be a piece of cake and I expect it to flow real well,” Williams said. “You try and make your point and get in, get out, have them carry it and then if I have something thoughtful that I think is interesting to add to the group, I will certainly do it.”
Outside family and professional hockey obligations, Williams is playing a lot of golf and tennis and enjoying post-playing life in the Raleigh-Durham area of North Carolina. When approached about a TV role, he figured it would be next season and jumped at the opportunity to make a cameo appearance in the Stanley Cup Final.
“I looked at the schedule and figured I could do it and said why the heck not,” he said. “I dip my toe in everything and kind of see what I want to do when I grow up.”
BURAKOVSKY NOT TRAVELING
Colorado coach Jared Bednar said injured forward Andre Burakovsky was being evaluated Sunday morning and not flying with the team. Bednar said Burakovsky would join the Avalanche in Tampa on Monday.
Burakovsky, who scored the overtime winner in Game 1, has been playing through pain since blocking a shot in the opener of the West final against Edmonton. He didn’t put any weight on his right leg skating off and needed help getting down the tunnel afterward.
Bednar said center Nazem Kadri, who has been out since injuring his thumb during the Oilers series, was traveling with the team but had no further details on when he might be available to play. Kadri continues skating and has ramped up his activity by adding a stick and handling the puck more.
“Not sure on Naz’s timeline yet,” Bednar said. “We’re hopeful we’re going to see him at some point. I’m not sure about Game 3 or Game 4. We’ll see.”
AWARDS ON TAP
The Hart Trophy for league MVP and the rest of the NHL’s awards will be presented Tuesday night in Tampa. Colorado’s Cale Makar and Tampa Bay’s Victor Hedman are finalists for the Norris Trophy as top defenseman, along with Nashville’s Roman Josi.
“I watched quite a bit of those guys during the regular season and then even before I came into the league, as well,” Makar said before the final started. “It’s fun going against them. You get to see them. It’s awesome when you get to be on the ice with them.”
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